Some 260 Americans have joined or tried to join terrorists abroad. And many of us wonder how in God that happens? How American is it that attracted a group that tries to destroy everything that the United States represents? Abdirizak Warsame has an exotic name, but it was an American teenager who lives with his mother in Minneapolis, who became the leader of a cell by sending ISIS other young people from Minneapolis to death.
As we first reported last October, Warsame was released from jail for a day to talk to us. A judge little condemns what could be up to 15 years in prison. Warsame wanted to explain to us – and through us to judge – how ISIS fell in the name of God.
Abdirizak Warsame: The reason I wanted to go to Syria was that I felt it was my duty. I felt it was something I had to do. And if I did not, it would be basically a shame for God. It would be a shame for the world. I dishonor my family.
Scott Pelley: Who shoot people and throw them into the river, one after another? The Jordanian pilot burned to death? Do you think you’re going to do this kind of thing?
Abdirizak Warsame taught murder theology in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was an American child – who rises in a difficult neighborhood – but never in trouble with the police. He found his way through high school in pursuit of a basketball, finding poetry and music.
“Cedar”, as at Cedar Riverside, was its neighborhood where 20,000 Somali refugees began to settle in the 1990s.
They put their hearts into the American dream, but, like most immigrant communities, the children of the first generation have grown up between two worlds. Too strange for many Americans, too American for their parents.
Abdirizak Warsame: I went to school with many children who were not Somali. And so I entered this culture, you know, music. Going to the ball, dancing, it’s hard to explain these things to your parents when they do not really understand what it is.
His mother could not understand why he was hanged with hard boys in Cedar, so he pushed him to go to the mosque.
Abdirizak Warsame: By learning religion and reciting the Koran, he began to be more religious. I felt there was something missing.
The mosque was not extremist. But the lessons were Somali. Warsame and searched for an English-speaking magnet online.
He met, Anwar al-Awlaki, born in New Mexico, and a spiritual advisor leading to Al Qaeda. Awlaki has produced hours of lectures glorifying the war against the infidels.
Abdirizak Warsame: One of the lectures was entitled “The Battle for Hearts and Minds”. And what they do is try to have their heart and mind and try to participate in their cause.
So if you do something good for your community, go to school, you have a good job, all this is meant to be useless. And there’s something else you can do.
Abdirizak Warsame: He explained how Islam was, you know, my call. It was almost as if I was talking to you.
And as they make you feel like you’re special, you know? And as you have chosen. And the more I listened, the more he called me and he was getting interesting.
Abdirizak Warsame: I would like to see it simply when I did nothing. When I was not at school or doing my homework or, you know, my family. I saw these videos.